I was in Spain for a business trip last week and thought I would share this with you. I love to write postcards to my friends while travelling as I know people these days still get super excited when they receive snail mail in the post. At least I do. Though is a small gesture, but at the point in time, while someone was travelling, he/she was thinking about you, enough to share their experiences with you in words, on a postcard. That to me is quite special. It is a piece of memory of your friend’s that you could now tact up onto your fridge and stay with you forever.
So here goes what I wrote:-
Am at Boca Grande Boca Chicha in Barcelona. Is this big few stories restaurant hidden in a quiet alleyway around the Diagonal area. I sat by the bar with a glass case filled with today’s freshest catch. Those glistening eyes of snappers, red millets, all looking back at me reassured me that this place will serve me some exceptional seafood dishes. I am travelling alone so though there are plenty I want to try, I shouldn’t be greedy. And for me, to know if a restaurant serves good food, as the reviews claims, is to order the simplest dish on the menu. It is always the simplest of dishes that are the hardest to make well. I opted for the classic Spanish seafood stew. Clams,mussels, chunks of white fish & prawns in a hot fragrant seafood broth. Oh, and don’t forget the rice!
You know this soup is well-made when you wipe your mouth and fingers, your white napkin is stained with a glorious orange colour of prawn oil and essence.
From Barcelona, With Love.
With that, I give you my version of the Spanish Seafood Stew
For the Seafood Broth
Splash of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
500g prawn shells and heads**
500g bones and heads of any white fish
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
2 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 leek, green and white part, roughly chopped
2 bulb fennel, quartered
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
handful of black peppercorn
1 tbsp tomato paste
Big splash of Spanish Brandy
enough cold water to cover all ingredients in the pot (roughly 2L)
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
**I usually save these up when I cook with prawns and stash them in the freezer until I need to make a seafood broth. If you are feeling generous and decadent, you may also buy some lobster for this, mix with prawn shells and heads to give you a richer flavour.
For the Seafood Stew
A mixture of fresh seafood of your choice: clams, mussels, chunks of white fish, squid, etc
handful of rice
small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
For the Seafood Broth:
- In a big soup pot, heat up some EVOO over medium heat. Saute onions, carrots, celery, leeks, fennel and garlic until soft and fragrant. You just want to cook them gently and not to brown them.
- Add in prawn shells and heads. Stir and mix with the veggies and let cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Add in the fish bones.
- Add in bay leaves, peppercorns and tomato paste. Stir until combine. Deglaze with big splash of Spanish Brandy. Stir with a wooden spoon and try to scrap off the bits at the bottom of the pot. Let the alcohol cook away, 2- 3 minutes.
- Add in cold water until it covers all the ingredients. Bring to a boil. Skim off any scum at the top.
- Lower the heat and half-cover the pot and let simmer for 30 – 45 minutes.
- Taste the broth. You make season it with a bit of salt and black pepper. If the broth tastes a bit thing in flavour, let it reduce a bit more but don’t let it cook for more than an hour.
- Strain the broth into a bowl or jars. This can keep in the fridge for 2 weeks or freezer for longer.
For the Seafood Stew:
- If you are using clams and mussels, get a medium size pot, add some EVOO to it over medium high heat. Pour in your clams and mussels and cover the pot and let cook for 1 minute. Add in a splash or white wine or Spanish Brandy. Cover and let cook for another 3 minutes or until clams and mussels are opened. Discard any unopened ones at this point. Strain the juices and reserve both the liquid and the seafood.
- In another medium size pot, add in roughly 700ml seafood broth, the liquid from the clams/mussels and a handful of rice. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and let cook for 15 minutes.
- Remove lid and turn the heat back up to medium and add in chunks of white fish, prawns or other seafood that you are using. Let cook for 5 -8 minutes or until cooked through. Stir back in clams and mussels, bring stew back up to a boil. Check seasoning and adjust with salt and black pepper.
- Turn off heat and sprinkle chopped parsley on top. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately with a drizzle of EVOO and chunks of crusty bread.